After who knows how long, the first “scene” of Richard Kuta’s Sonic animated fan film has finally been released. Now, there has been quite the controversy surrounding the entire thing, which is fine. Sometimes controversy creates interest, and interest leads to views and views lead to more interest. Is that what happened this go round? Well…for the few that have been paying attention…not really. To be honest, I don’t even know if this deserves to be posted on the front page, since it’s only a minute of a movie that will likely never be finished. So before we say another word, watch the teaser. Have fun with it.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way…good lord. The last time I talked about a fan film, I went on for thousands of words talking about how Jim Sass had no idea what he was doing, and how what he made wasn’t a Sonic film. And I wish I could just jump right back into that, but it’s hard for me to do so, seeing as this isn’t even a full film. Heck, we don’t even get to see any interesting parts! We see Robotnik talking to Sonic, Sonic looking at Metal Sonic, and the rest of the cast barely doing anything. Things don’t get interesting (and I use that term loosely) until you get to watch Kuta’s “bonus” video of the extra raw footage the animation studio made which he didn’t pay for. Where you can actually see Sonic and Metal Sonic start fighting. You know. An action sequence in a Sonic movie since Sonic is essentially a video game and relies on action sequences.
It’s hard for me to be super critical on the “raw” footage since it isn’t done (but one can’t ignore Sonic’s…panting) but looking at the finished minute, it wouldn’t be a far leap to guess the scene still wouldn’t have looked right. That’s what happens when you pay 300 dollars to a small animation studio that probably doesn’t care what Sonic is, and you’re thousands of miles away and can’t really focus on whatever they’re doing. For those that have commented on the brief seconds, talk about Sonic and Tails’ models being off has gone on and on. They don’t look right in any capacity, and certainly don’t look like the model sheets the animators apparently went off of. Even the teaser posters do not resemble the finished animation. I know, it’s a fan project. Expecting super high quality and consistency in every aspect might be too much, but…when you’ve been hyping a film for over five years, you expect a little bit more than this.
When the best looking character is Princess Sally Acorn, who also sounds the best (and yet still does nothing within the scene) you being to wonder “what was the point of all this? Isn’t this a Sonic film? Why can’t you animate Sonic doing something Sonic-y?” If you were ABC, and had to make a trailer for the Saturday morning series, what would you do? Use footage of Sonic zooming around Robotropolis and smashing SWATbots, or would you showcase a scene where Sonic and Sally are standing around talking about nothing whatsoever? I’d choose the former. Even though Kuta’s final product hints that something is about to happen, it doesn’t work when you don’t get to actually see the payoff! That’s why I think he uploaded the “raw” footage afterwards, realizing that he spent his money on the wrong scene.
Not that it would necessarily save the project. It isn’t a secret that an earlier draft leaked onto the Internet, along with quite a few supplemental materials connected to it. Kuta claims that he is currently on draft six of the screenplay (the first and fourth drafts having been the ones leaked) and that much has been changed, but I have to wonder…how much? Has the plot changed substantially, or has dialogue merely been rewritten, or some aspects shuffled around? The scene offers no clues, as it is exactly as written in the fourth draft.
Now, I haven’t read through the entirety of the script, and I should say somewhere that yes, I enjoy classic Sonic more than other incarnations. But I did watch SatAM while growing up, am more than familiar with the characters and settings within, and while the games and the show are completely different entities…I think that Kuta has not only missed the point of what Sonic actually is, but missed the point of what his Saturday morning counterpart was meant to be, as well. Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead.
The screenplay starts off not with Sonic, but with modern day Earth, where Dr. Ovi Kintobor holds a press conference explaining how the world is in turmoil, but that there is hope in the form of the Chaos Emeralds, which he has discovered in an island somewhere in the ocean. He explains his plans on seeking out more, and drops the word “Grounder” so that the viewing audience can have a chuckle thinking about Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, this introduction is odd. But it certainly is not offensive. That comes later, when Kintobor starts talking to his colleague Nate Morgan (who is a young, tall black man instead of the short old guy in the comics) about how he feels the world is resting on his shoulders. Oh, wait. That’s not the offensive part. That comes when the Chaos Emeralds accidentally power up a rat which proceeds to impale Nate and then start a chain reaction which causes the end of the human race. Kintobor escapes into space, and returns centuries later to find the planet is still alive, but there are talking animals instead. Which I guess makes him go crazy even though he seems pretty calm running away from the destruction of civilization.
I just…don’t understand how any of that is acceptable. The rest of the film (and the outline of the trilogy) goes on to say that the human race was doomed anyway, and the fact Kintobor (who is now Robotnik) is alive was a mistake, and that if he gets a hold of the Chaos Emeralds again, bad things will happen. Very bad things. And – hey look at that – only one super cool blue hedgehog can use them properly! The moral of the story is that the only way the human race can be redeemed is if Robotnik is killed, and the Mobians are allowed to live in peace. It doesn’t become a morality tale, or a warning that, hey, maybe us humans shouldn’t be such big jerks. It actually becomes a story about how every single human being is evil, that there is nothing we can do to stop it, and that talking animals are superior in every way and we should just give the planet to them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think many kids want to go in seeing a Sonic the Hedgehog movie and get this desolate idea of existence instead.
And that’s the problem! I know Richard Kuta has gone on about how this was pitched to SEGA, but the Japanese branch ultimately vetoed it. You can argue if this is true or not, but I can think of one very good reason why it wouldn’t have been made. It doesn’t make much sense. Even the Saturday morning series, for everyone who triumphs its darkness, was never this dark. Sure, we only got Robotnik and Snively as examples of humanity, but it never said they were the only ones. The backstory the writers used was that the related duo were from the past, and ended up in the future after a space expedition that went bad, and that Robotnik felt “in the land of the animal, man should rule.” Ben Hurst was even open to the idea of other random human beings still living, if not in space than in hiding on the planet. Maybe they wouldn’t have been seen ever in the show, but he didn’t close off the notion. But in Richard Kuta’s script? He makes it very clear this is how he sees the show, and how he interprets the Sonic franchise.
Even the comic relief characters – Rotor, Antoine, and Snively – are nowhere to be seen in the script. Rotor was supposed to be in the second film, and as far as I know its never gone beyond an outline. But it seems like his introduction is more to pair up Bunnie with someone, and to have him become a walking Deux Ex Machina. The show wasn’t all doom and gloom. But when we’re treated to a scene in the script where a young Bunnie Rabbot sees her mother burning to death…well, it’s not exactly family friendly.
I could go on about how much is devoted to the relationship between Sonic and Sally (in a manner SEGA would never approve…no, they don’t have sex) or how the dialogue is stiff or any number of things, but in the end, all I can ask is…why make this? The reason any of this came into being was because Kuta wanted to make a film that appealed to as many Sonic fans as possible. Once SEGA denied the proposal, what was the reason of continuing? If what you really wanted to do was make a SatAM movie, then why not actually make a SatAM movie? You want funding? Say you’re going to try and animate the third season as a standalone project. Or maybe do it in parts, to make people interested. Don’t force yourself to continue with this vision when it’s pretty clear that not many people care to see how you were going to end it. There are already enough Sonic continuities out there to argue about. The last thing anyone needed was yet another.
Oh, and next time? Actually credit the voices you use.